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Writer pal Rob Kroese has a new book out this week, and in lieu of the standard dog and pony marketing show about the book, he’s provided a rather confessional summary of the last few years of his life while he’s been working on this book. I’m glad he’s managed to get some distance from all of it (as well as persevering with the whole writer thing), but his story is all too familiar. In the last few months, I’ve gotten caught up in the old inchoate rage that used to get in the way of things. It stems from frustration, mostly, and it was a mental state that I thought I had put to rest. Apparently not. 

When you’re a creative entrepreneur (read responsible to deadlines that are either distant or self-imposed), it’s easy to lose track of the why. Why do we struggle to create something out of nothing? Why do we write stories that are persistent undervalued by the very people who crave them? Why do we keep pushing this rock up this very big hill? It would be easier to go work in the back of a big box store, sorting inventory in the dead of the night when we wouldn’t have to interact with anyone. I drove past some road construction today, where at least four dudes were standing around in their orange vests, supervising. Wouldn’t that be easier than chasing an audience that might not exist for my books? 

Of course it would be. It would be easy to set all of this aside and go punch a clock somewhere. And I’ve thought about it. A lot, recently. “I’ll wrap it all up, and go away,” I think to myself. “I’ll just get a job somewhere. Let all the social media presence go dark, and just vanish.” And I’ve even said this out loud a few times. “It’s my final option,” I say. “When nothing else works, it’s the last choice available, and I’ll take it when the time comes. And I won’t look back. I’ll just be done with all this creative stuff.” 

And I’ll say it earnestly. I’ll look folks in the eye when I say it. “No, really,” I'll say, “I’ll be done.” 

But it’s a lie. I just won’t tell anyone that I’m still writing. No one will know that books are still being written. They may even be published via whatever dark underbelly of the self-pub world where illicit pseudonymous books are secretly slipped into the world. I’d deny all of it, of course, because I said I was done and that I was going to go be a hermit somewhere. It’s no good to be caught in a lie, after all. 

But it is, truly, a lie. 

And if that last statement is true—which it is—then all of the whining and stress and rage has nothing to do with failing, and everything to do with being disconnected with who you are and what you truly desire. My rage—oh, that persistent darkness that I so long to drown in a lake, once and for all—comes from not being strong enough to work hard at what I truly want. From thinking that the world owes me something. That the universe is going to show up at my front door like I just won a surprise sweepstakes. [Does anyone see the irony of the old dream being winning the ‘Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes’? Does anyone recall what publisher and what clearinghouse?] 

No one owes me anything. I owe myself a bit of grace. A bit of kindness about the road I’ve chosen. I owe myself a moment to recognize the desire to live a creative life and not have a life that is defined by being a consumer. And when I take a deep breath and go for a walk around the block and come back to myself again, I remember all that. I remember that Persistence wins. 

Everything else is out of my control, and, therefore, none of it matters. Truly. I have to keep working, because one day, like Rob Kroese—like J. K. Rowling, like Marie Doria Russell, and every other writer out there who never stopped believing in their work—someone will take note, and then things will change. 

It can’t happen if you aren’t doing the work. One of the hardest things we have to do as writers is not figure out how to outline, or plot, or write good dialogue. It’s believing in ourselves. Over and over. Every day. Persistence wins. 

A collection of essays about the UNusual, amusing, heartbreaking, random, and quite perfectly crazy ways writers got their words out there, with contributions by Cherie Priest, Alma Alexander, Mark Teppo, Laura Anne Gilman, Jim C. Hines, Katharine Kerr, David D. Levine, K. Tempest Bradford, Ada Palmer, Ken Scholes, Nancy Jane Moore, Jennifer Brozek, Rhiannon Held, Jo Walton, Chris Dolley, Brenda Cooper, Chaz Brenchley, Tina Connolly, Randy Henderson, Elizabeth Bourne, John A. Pitts, Mindy Klasky, Amy Sterling Casil, Deborah J. Ross, Phyllis Irene Radford, Sara Stamey, and Trisha Leigh/Lyla Payne.

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Earlier this year, Shannon Page asked me to write a piece about the path I took to getting published. After laughing for a good solid ten minutes, I said I’d be delighted to contribute to her book, and it’s out now. The Usual Path to Publication contains twenty-seven stories about how writers got their first book deals, and no two paths are the same. It’s a great read about persistence, really. As well as a reminder that, while writing a fantastic story is important, it’s also important to get out of the house once in a while and make nice with other people in the industry. 

We’re getting closer to Move Day around my house, and my son is struggling with the reality of moving away from all of his friends. We were talking about it recently, and I said, “Well, I don’t have any friends, so it’s easy for me to do this.” [Not true, of course, but Hyperbolic Dad tries to make thing easier.] He disagreed with me, and once we were done listing my local friends, he started to list the people I count as friends who don’t live near me now. These people don’t care that I’m moving. They just care that I’m still out there, and it’s one of the interesting aspects of being a creative. Yes, I am moving away from my local friends, but I'm still part of a global community. Which, in some ways, is also a comment about persistence. It’s all hard. It’s all work. And it’s all worth it. Because we aren’t alone, even as much as we feel like we are sometimes. 

I've been drowning in deadlines—most of them self-imposed—and I have neglected the necessity of disconnecting for a few minutes. I had forgotten how delightful it was to read something for pleasure. To watch an hour of well-written television. To go look at art. I have done all three recently. You should too. 

{For the curious: I have reread some John D. MacDonald, watched the last few episodes of The Newsroom that I had missed previously, listened to some new music from Radiohead, Die Warzau, and StarofAsh. Finally, I have built playlists for my new EO1 art display. My favorite is still the unimpressed giraffe.]

-m

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